Mission Accomplished – For the better part of three months, Bob and Mike Bryan had been stuck on 61 doubles titles, the benchmark that had been set by the talented pair known round the world as the “Woodies.” But this past week, in the state they first called home, where they went to college and first showed promise of the tennis results to come, the chest-bumping brothers finally broke through and took their 62nd title at the Farmers Classic in Los Angeles. Their win was one of the biggest headlines in the sport over the weekend and should inject some life into the game of doubles. Also impressive was seeing a classy Mark Woodforde, who is based in California, cheering the Bryans on throughout the week. Best of all is that the Bryans have confirmed they are nowhere near ready to hang up their racquets. They still want to serve their country in the Davis Cup and still want to bag a few more Grand Slam titles. Congratulations to the twins and may they continue their assault on the record book as they wow audiences across the world and keep doubles on the map.
Back from the Brink – Another American who capped off a fine week at the Farmers Classic was Sam Querrey. The big American had to grind out each and every one of his wins, and that included saving match point in two straight matches, first in the semis against Janko Tipsarevic, and in the final against Andy Murray. The win over Murray, whom Sam had previously never taken a set from, had to help boost Querrey’s belief that he may just be ready to take that next step and start making a move for the Top 15 and possibly Top 10. And as disappointing as it had to be to lose the title after holding match point, Andy Murray did well to log a great week of tennis amidst all of the turmoil surrounding the sacking of Maclagan (though the Scot could still use a course in anger management).
California Dreamin’ – Stanford California saw dream weeks for many of the WTA’s top stars as well. Maria Sharapova put together one of the best weeks of tennis she’s had in awhile. Unfortunately for her, she ran into a woman who can match her stroke-for-stroke (and decibel-for-decibel) in Victoria Azarenka. Despite her being a head case and her recent struggles with injuries, Azarenka has shown she has the game and has posted the results to suggest she’s one of the WTA’s most promising young talents. If she’s got her game back on track, look for her to be a dangerous dark horse at this year’s US Open. And finally, we have the winners of the women’s doubles title, Americans Liezel Huber and Lindsay Davenport. With her play in Stanford, Huber regained the No. 1 doubles ranking, while Davenport was taking to the court for the first time in nearly two years. Not a shabby return to the game for the former World No. 1.
Twitter Tantrum – Perhaps the only person not smiling in California last week was Serena Williams (and okay, I’m sure the tournament
director and other officials couldn’t have been too pleased either). Serena Williams blasted the tournament officials of the Farmers Classic and advised all who read her tweets to boycott the event. The reason for the angry tweets stemmed from tournament officials requiring Serena to pay $100 for a ticket to the event instead of giving it to her complimentary – with this whole saga unfolding after Serena had done some promo work with James Blake for the event. It’s hard to make a complete judgment call on this one. Serena’s tweets suggest the promo work was done gratis, though to my knowledge, it’s never been confirmed if she was paid for the work or not. If she was, then all was square and the tournament can’t be faulted for charging Serena for a ticket if their policy is to charge all spectators, irrespective of fame. If the promo work was done for free, then show Serena a little love. But throwing aside the question of whether Serena should or should not have been charged for a ticket, she was still immature in her own response to the situation. $100 is nothing to her, and it was all about the principle, not the amount of the ticket, that Serena took issue with. Based on the posts I read from a number of individuals who reacted to this story, Serena could have won over more sympathizers had she taken the high road instead of living up to her reputation as tennis’ top diva…but then again, Serena probably doesn’t care how many people jump on her band wagon in this case.
It’s Official – Reports have been circulating of Juan Martin Del Potro’s return to tennis ever since it was announced he was on the preliminary entry list of participants in the US Open. Del Potro recently did post some video evidence that he is in fact hitting on the courts for the first time. It’s great to see the big Argentine hitting balls again, but I’m holding my breath a bit here. A rushed comeback could spell disaster down the road, but Del Potro has a good head on his shoulders and a good coach, so fingers crossed it all pans out for the young star, starting with a trip as returning champion to the Big Apple.
A Super Sunday for Southern California natives as the Bryan Brothers become the all time best doubles team in tennis history, and Sam Querrey repeats as champion trumping mopey Murray in three sets that thrilled the Los Angeles crowd as American tennis sets the US Open Series ablaze going two for two.
The first match was the historic one. Bob and Mike Bryan, twins, who personify synergetic, aggressive doubles tennis like no one else, take on the other guys on yet another perfect afternoon on the UCLA campus at the Farmers Classic Open. The first set was tight, and Bob later admitted that his arms felt like “spaghetti” throughout, as the other guys stood their ground, taking the initiative, looking as though they weren’t going to simply lay down and let the Brady Bunch script unfold without difficulty. Father Bryan, who instituted tennis to his twin sons at a very early age, was the MC of the event, and sat in the stands without objective restraint as he could be seen cheering his boys on with his signature enthusiasm. Fist pumps issued forth from father Wayne Bryan, and the crowd rallied as the Bryan brothers dropped the first set in a very tentative display by the twins, who were seeking their 62nd title, one ahead of the legendary team of Woodford/Woodbridge. Mark Woodford was on hand to see if his record would hold, and the other guys (Butorac/Rojer) looked to keep the Bryans at bay for at least another week. The first set wrapped in a weakly played tiebreak by the brothers Bryan, but what seems to be the going trend with the So Cal native sons, is the ability to bounce back and that they did. The Bryans easily took the second set 6-2, as the nerves subdued and the confidence returned. The custom for doubles, once it reaches a split, is to play a ten point super tiebreak. Did you expect anything less? Taking the quick lead 4-0, it looked like no. 62 was inevitable. The other guys fought back, and even broke the big serve of lefty Bob and the match was tied at 7-7. A few crucial mistakes, including an untimely double fault by Butorac gave the boys a match point and after putting away the volley the Bryans leapt into each other arms thrusting their names into the history books. Bob Bryan told reporters what he felt: “Sixty two brings a smile to our face. It’s been an emotional ride, talking about it every day for the past couple of months. To finally do it is incredible. There were definitely nerves out there and those guys were playing great. It was a very hard fought match. Our legs felt like jelly, arms spaghetti… It was a flood of emotion. I never thought we’d be this consistent, this healthy our whole career. Sixty one looked like it was on the other side of the moon. If you stay consistent, and never give up on each other – even in dry spells – anything can happen. We’ve never given up on each other.”
The singles championship was going to be decided after the Bryans match, between returning champion Sam Querrey, the local favorite and first time Los Angeleser Andy Murray. The battle ensued right from the get go, as the two men held nothing back. Querrey told reporters after his semi-final win that he needed to go for more against Andy, and take some chances. He certainly did just that. The American was going for his shots without delay and the first set slid Andy’s way mostly because Querrey wasn’t quite hitting his marks. Whether or not the nerves were a factor Andy held steady and was able to break Sam late in the set and hold for a 7-5 lead. This wasn’t new territory for the American number 20. Sam’s last three matches all went the distance and he trailed in all of them. But could he do it against a top player like Andy Murray? You wouldn’t have guessed so, but Andy was caught in familiar territory as well, as in all of his matches leading up to the final he started with a bang only to take a catnap in the second. He didn’t exactly sleep this set away but had some strong opportunities to dunk the trophy home in straights. But Sam showed what he has been showing for the past week: pure So Cal heart. I feel with this comeback, especially against a player of Murray’s caliber, can only send Sam across the ravine of steady, workhorse, blue collar man to white collar, trophy collecting, net jets flying, elite player. After a gritty tiebreak triumph in the second set, utilizing that big serve, big forehand one two to perfection, Querrey rolled on to wrap up the third and deciding set 6-3, and becoming one of the few to repeat in LA. With Mardy’s win in Atlanta, and now Querrey’s repeat, and Blake looking like his injuries have subsided, and Isner climbing the ranks steadily, and Roddick consistently re-proving his dominance on hard courts, this year’s US Open looks mouthwatering for American tennis. Could the flag of Spain, Switzerland, Serbia, and UK flap dead across the Hudson this August? Could the Unites States Open crown one of its own native sons? The tide of tennis is fickle, and if one were to venture a guess with the current shift, I would start singing the pledge of allegiance folks.
The Bryan Brothers equalled the Open Era doubles record of the Australian Woodies, Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodford on Sunday by securing their 61st victory of their careers in the Madrid Masters doubles final. The telepathic twins beat world No. 1 pair, Daniel Nestor and partner Nenad Zimonjic 6-3, 6-4 in a final lasting only 55 minutes. Nestor and his partner were broken twice, with the Americans saving all three break points they faced. The brothers ruthlessly claimed victory on the first match point they gained. Interestingly, all twelve previous meetings between the teams have come in finals, seven of those in Masters events.
Nestor commented, “The Bryans always play us tough…we’ve had some good wins against them but they’ve been too tough this season. Obviously, it’s all about the Slams for us now, and our next big objective is the French Open. We’ll head to Paris now and regroup. We want to be playing our best in a week when the major begins.”
Like the Woodies, the brothers are a left-right combination, which they used to great effect in the final. Bob commented, “That is definitely the best combination…the sun out there today was really bad for a leftie, so we decided to put Mike on a different side. We can use winds to our advantage and the leftie serve is always tougher to break, I think. We feel like our game is pretty comfortable if I make first serves and Mike is such a good returner he keeps us in other guys’ service games.”
The Bryan Brothers have now leapt to the pinnacle of the world doubles rankings overtaking Nestor and Zimonjic as the world No. 1 doubles pair. The impressive brothers began 2010 with their eighth grand slam title at the Australian Open and have already won titles in Delray Beach, Houston and Rome. If they were to become victorious at the French Open in three weeks time, they will break the record held by the Woodies in some style, with a Grand Slam win.
Indeed, they show no sign of relaxing their steely grip on the world doubles tour and will no doubt break the record in impressive style and go on to win even more titles, keeping the doubles tour in the media spotlight for the next generation of tennis players. “We’re still having fun. It never gets old or boring to be travelling the world with your brother,” Mike said. “We love winning titles and sharing the trophies and memories. We don’t want to say, ‘Now that we’ve done this or that, we’re going to retire next year.’ I don’t think we’d find this adrenalin sitting on the couch at home so we might as well soak it up while we can.”
The talented twins have also been enjoying the adrenalin rush of playing in their rock band, The Bryan Bros Band at various concert venues around the world with singer David Baron. They even performed with the Counting Crows in front of 30,000 screaming fans. It seems for the twins, success is like a drug they cannot easily give up. You can download their new album ‘Let it Rip’ on iTunes now. British fans, check out the hilariously awful rap by Andy Murray on one of the tracks, alongside a slighter better Novak Djokovic about signing autographs – it’s well worth a listen and the other tracks are actually pretty catchy!
Melina Harris is a freelance sports writer, book editor, English tutor and PTR qualified tennis coach. For more information and contact details please visit and subscribe to her website and blog at http://www.thetenniswriter.wordpress.com and follow her twitter updates via http://www.twitter.com/thetenniswriter. She is available for freelance writing, editing and one to one private teaching and coaching.